Author’s Note: This may be sudden, but I love girl x demi-human relationships (drools).
I was wracking my brain in front of my fishing rod when I noticed something red suddenly appearing in the corner of my eye.
There was something near the inlet where the stream meandered and formed a small bay. The color was out of place in the scenery so far, so when I looked more closely, I noticed it was a fallen humanoid figure wrapped in a red cloak. Oh, thank goodness. It was just a person. I was worried that it might have been some monster out of a fantasy—
I was about to casually ignore them when it immediately hit me! There was no way I could ignore a person!!!
I promptly rushed over and realized that this fallen figure was a bit off from a "human"—he was a "demi-human". He had evenly cut silver hair that didn't look ugly, two horns on either side of his forehead, a firm build that was between a buff macho and a lean macho, and leather armor often seen in fantasy manga and games.
An o-o-o-o-oni?! …Ah, but he wasn't wearing that characteristic tiger-striped underwear… By the way, there is a reason for the tiger-striped underwear… Northeast is an unlucky direction known as "the demon gate" and is also associated with the placement of the cow and tiger in the Chinese zodiac. Therefore, oni → cow and tiger → cow-like horns and tiger-skin loincloth → tiger-striped underwear…or so I believed the story went. Well, I’m sure there’s some explanation out there!
Anyway, once again, thanks to the wonderful work of Survival Skill, I wasn't that shaken by my first encounter with a demi-human in this world. I was collected as I observed him. His eyes were closed so I couldn’t tell what color they were. He was either the same age as me or slightly older, based on what I could tell from his clean yet slightly grim face. His chest was quietly yet surely moving up and down, and despite being submerged in water, his complexion looked fine. He didn’t appear to be “on the verge of death.” I felt a bit relieved! Also, Survival Skill didn’t seem to have anything to report, so I should be fine approaching him, right???
"Um… Are you okay? Can you hear me? Can you move?”
“Mhm… You appear to be conscious but can’t move… Your body will get cold if you remain submerged in water, so I’m going to pull you to shore, okay?”
“Please fold your arms together~.”
I timidly approached Mister Oni and stuck close to him. As I called out, his closed eyes fluttered open. He was probably searching for the direction of my voice or checking his surroundings… In either case, it was certain that his eyeballs were moving around. Also, the color of his eyes was a vibrant ruby color, like fresh blood or delicious strawberry candies.
In any case, I was just glad that he was conscious! But he seemed to have some difficulty moving about. He struggled to get up, but he fell back down with a splat. This sequence of events repeated several times, and now he lay facing up, completely exhausted. Being submerged in water will rob the body of heat, so please excuse me as I drag you on shore! He seemed to be flustered for a bit, but that didn’t bother me! I could clearly see how his strength was being taken away from him…
I went around to his head, had him cross his arms over his chest, wrapped both of my arms around his torso from behind, lifted him up using my knees, and gave him a good squeeze—
“I’m sorry if this hurts… Heave-ho!!!”
Finally, I dragged him to shore while keeping his chest slightly above the water. This should be enough, right? Mhm. Mister Oni was groaning in an attempt to stifle a scream, but there really was nothing I could do about this. There was no way I could pick up and carry an oni all by myself. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. But if I was dealing with an elderly lady who was smaller than me, I could easily lift and carry her! Don’t underestimate an acupuncturist and moxibutionist who works at a nursing home and visits patients’ homes! I may look like this, but I’m a certified caretaker! (smug)
…Err, well, I also had to be certified by the country to be an acupuncturist and moxibutionist. When I got my certificate, I learned that I couldn’t be a functional training specialist like amateur masseurs or bonesetters. At most, I could use it alongside my nursing… I coped with this idea since my company helped pay for me to get my certificate, and having it wouldn’t hurt having one. But who would have thought that the requirements would become lax in the future so that even acupuncturists and moxibutionists could become functional training specialists?!!! I didn’t really mind since I learned a lot from the prep course for the practical exam and the reviews I did to cram for it…
My workplace allowed me to enjoy my hobbies while providing me with enough salary to make a living. I didn't encounter any unreasonable clients. I got along relatively well with my coworkers. And above all, I formed pretty nice relationships with my patients since I idly chatted with them in between treatments. Even if I could return, I would probably be fired for my long absence… I was also planning on getting certified as a long-term care support specialist for my next one, but I don’t know when I can go back, so all my effort might have been a waste… Boohoo. Damn you. I won't forgive you, Saint Summoning. You have no compassion.
…Anyway. While I debated if I should perform a nighttime curse during the daytime, Mister Oni got up. I wasn't sure if it was from the pain of being dragged around, shock, or possibly both…but for whatever reason, he slowly crossed his legs and sat there. Did he recover? …Wait. I wonder about that. Seeing as he was still slumped over in his seated position, he must be considerably exhausted…right? I was sure that when I looked at him before, he hadn't lost that much strength…
"Um… I elevated you above the water, but your body will still lose a lot of heat if your clothes remain wet. I'll bring something to dry you off!"
I expectedly didn't carry any blanket towels on me, but I should have a poncho towel that resembled a bath towel with a hood meant to protect against the sun’s rays. After I said that and was about to leave, Mister Oni seemed to have finally realized his situation. He looked down at his hair and cloak sticking to his tired face and body.
"Wet…? Oh… This… Rien (Laundry), Folai (Dry)."
He snapped, and green and red lights swirled around his body. Even before I could blink in my shock, his clothes and body, which had been drenched in water and mud, were cleaned as if they had been washed…and were dried of all moisture. …Eh? What happened…? Was this magic? A fantasy?!!!
I was so excited by this that I violently shook him. I had apparently grabbed his body in the nick of time as I had prevented him from falling over. If I wasn't fast enough, he might have smashed his head against the stones in the river bed. Safe! Just in time!!! It was a close call, but no head injuries here!!! If an accident did happen, any conversation with him will continue to be pushed back… Should I draw up an accident report or an accident prevention measure… No, in this situation, an accident or a meeting would be pointless. How can I put it…? It was like I wanted to avoid things I emotionally want to avoid.
"A-are you okay?"
Mister Oni managed to raise his face despite how his whole body trembled.
However, just as he made that unimaginable statement, his head dropped again and he appeared to have lost consciousness. Like the strings of a marionette doll being cut, he collapsed right on top of me. I somehow managed to support him and softly laid him on the ground so he wouldn't hit his head. While I was at it, I also folded the parka I was wearing into a simple pillow and slid it under his head.
"I guess…he's hungry…"
GROOOWL… I heard this mysterious sound continually coming out from around Mister Oni's stomach area. The cries of his empty stomach were amazing! …Ah, well, when your body gets as big as him, you are sure to have some impressive metabolism… The milk trout should be drained of its blood by now (although it would taste better if I could ferment it…), but it should be enough for a meal. It would leave a bad taste in my mouth if I just left him alone like this, and there was that saying: A meeting by chance is preordained. I'll do something about room and board for a night, Mister Oni!!!